Having a form of mission statement or family philosophy WRITTEN DOWN and read over from time to time solidifies in a person the purpose of what they are doing. It is so easy to forget why we are doing what we are doing when we get all bogged down with the details that seem so infinitely important and they actually aren’t at all.
A philosophy WRITTEN DOWN becomes for families a tool of discernment. Instead of being frozen or impetuous in decision making, we have a reference point, a tangible, accessible purpose that help remind us of why we are doing what we’re doing. So all decisions, big and small, can start with referring to this statement. It saves time, it saves money, it saves heartache.
How? Well, if you are stressing out over whether or not to buy a particular curriculum, you can refer back to the philosophy statement. Does the purchase enhance or detract from your ability to accomplish your big goal or goals? You are considering moving to another town or job. Does the decision enhance or detract from what it is you want out of life?
It’s a big picture reference point for all the little picture details. A family philosophy can change and adapt over time, as life changes the kinds of decisions that need to be made.
I asked the mamas if having some sort of format to work with would be helpful, and they agreed that they would. Sometimes I forget that not everybody is as wordy as I am, and so I suggested that I could provide kind of a template on how to get started for the less wordy.
So here it is.
A family philosophy statement needs to start with a big, bold all encompassing statement that refers to your life’s ultimate goal. Such as,
“We love God and desire heaven as our ultimate end. We want to raise our children in such a way that they will pursue this goal.”
The purpose of this opening statement would be a Life Purpose.
Or, naturally, if one is an atheist (although I don’t think too many atheists are reading my blog) one could write, “I desire to live life as fully as possible while on earth. And then die to enter the dark abyss, my last thought being that I lived a full life.”
Or something like that. I don’t actually have the inside scoop on whatever atheists think about death, never having engaged an atheist on the topic.
Fleshing that idea out, then, couples could write a short paragraph, or point form, how they believe this goal is best accomplished. Such as, for ourselves it might be something like:
We believe that living a life that is pleasing to God requires our love and our obedience to His Holy Will. We believe that God reveals His will for us through the Scriptures and the Catholic Church. He has commanded us to love Himself and our neighbour. Our most important task, then, as parents with children entrusted to us, is to strive for the love and obedience that God calls us to for His sake, and for the sake of the example of love and obedience that we want our children to witness.
We are called firstly to witness to our children. They will understand the love of God most by witnessing that love we have for Him, for each other, for them and for our neighbour. We desire to grow in virtue.
Here are some thoughts on categories and how we might address them in our life.
PRAYER LIFE: We strive for a prayer life that includes family prayers, prayer as a couple, and personal prayer. We teach our children the prayers of the Church, and model for them personal prayer. Improving our spiritual lives is an ongoing pursuit. We attend mass together as a family, and it is the focus of our Sunday.
HOME LIFE: We want our home to be a place of refuge, a place where we can relax and a place where others feel welcome. Hospitality is important to us. Maintaining order in the home helps us to be more disciplined in other areas of life. We want God’s love to be present in our home and in our day. We want to avoid over scheduling ourselves to the point of not being able to enjoy each other. It is important for us to eat meals together whenever we can.
EDUCATION: The goal of education is love of God and virtue. All other education is for the purpose of giving our children the opportunity to choose their vocations well and fulfill them, and to be as productive as they should be in society. Education in the home is ideally suited to education in virtue. For all of us.
APOSTOLATE: Our primary apostolate must be our family. Other areas of ministry need to include our family and be part of what we do together. Ministry that we get involved in shouldn’t divide the family, but be a witness to family life. We need to be mentored as much as we need to mentor others.
Other categories might include Discipline, Division of Labour, Openness to life, Career and Employment Ideals. Attachment Parenting, Music, Travel, Fitness or whatever other category seems significant to the family. But starting with a statement, then some relevant categories, fleshing them out, and including some practical details about how that will play out in your family would be a practical way of going about this task. It also doesn’t need to be done overnight. A statement and some categories could be decided, and then add to them as ideas come.
The above categories can and probably should be fleshed out in very practical points, according to the particular phase of life that a family finds itself in. For example, under apostolate, if we had only small children, we might only want to be a family who invites other families over or organizes a family event once a month, or run a moms and tots group in order that our ministry be in keeping with our family goals.
Now that our kids are older, we have the opportunity to do things that include our kids, but take on a greater leadership quality as time or more importantly, energy, allows.
Another example of this might be when our children were small, we minimized our organized activities (to almost nothing!) so that our schedule didn’t take over our life. As our kids got older, more mobile and we had help in driving by older teens, etc., we realized we could handle more activities without life feeling out of control.
Under home life, we might write down what we want bedtime to be like. Under education, we might feel compelled to list how important reading is,or our goals for what our home education will look like. This family philosophy can be as detailed as a person wants, it can change and grow with them family.